Syracuse 75 - Minnesota 67
Yet again our boys in Orange pull out a tough win in a close game against a good defensive team. Minnesota kept the pressure on for the full 40 minutes, and SU only gave up 10 turnovers (only 5 live-ball turnovers). Minnesota was the first NCAA Tournament caliber team we have faced, in talent, coaching, and height. It was a real test, and the Orange were able to keep control for almost the whole game. The Gophers had a couple decent runs, but they never got ahead by more than 3, and they never led in the second half.
Carl Keith Mutherf***n Fair Jr
CJ Fair played like... CJ Fair. He played tough all night, hit the open shots, and gave this team the will to win.
CJ also provided the current frontrunner for highlight of the year with this bloody slam. Seriously, how bad-ass does he look walking away with blood all over? The announcers rightfully pointed out his poise, class, and maturity when he didn't argue the blatantly missed foul call and just walked away.
CJ had a solid game otherwise, with 12 of his 16 coming in the second half, including 8 during a run that put the Gophers away for good. He still had some turnover problems, but that's going to happen when you touch the ball on every possession. However CJ goes, the Orange are sure to follow.
Ennis played like a veteran point guard all game. He went 10-11 from the Free Throw stripe, and had 5 assists to go with his... wait... he had ZERO turnovers vs the press?
Ennis had a little trouble finishing his drives, but his consistently smart offensive play and strong defense made him a crucial factor in Syracuse controlling this game.
Cooney, Coleman, and Grant all had great games and played smart basketball.
Cooney was a first half hero, showing flashed of Cornell. He finished with 15 points, all off of first half three pointers. He didn't get the same looks in the second half, but he's still rushing open shots. He looked better on catch-and-shoot than wide open shots at points. He was great defensively, and a real difference maker. His playmaking is underrated.
With Coleman starting to produce like we hoped, Baye Keita is becoming a non-factor. They played about the same number of minutes, and Coleman had more rebounds, steals, less turnovers, and same blocks (2). But the difference is that he had 9 points to Keita's 1, and seemed to have much more presence on both side of the floor.
Jerami Grant continues to be somewhat of an enigma. He mixes huge athletic plays, pro potential, and impressive size with questionable decisions, regrettable shot selection, and a slight lack of confidence. He had some big dunks and good rebounds, but missed a few key assignments defensively. He is still tapping into that potential we keep hearing about. Let's hope he unleashes the beast soon.
Christmas had an excellent game, even though he only finished with 6 points, they included 3 big dunks, along with emotion.
Gbinije played very well against a tough press. His ball handling was tight, his decision making was good. The only thing missing for him is the confidence to drive the ball to the basket more often. He's such a size difference defensively that it causes the other team to change their style of play.
Free Throw shooting was a big factor, and possibly a difference maker. SU shot 82% from the line, (22-27), including decent nights from the usual suspects (Coleman, Grant, Gbinije), and a big night from Ennis. i guess that extra practice is helping!
Syracuse's biggest trouble right now is not being able to finish. As in, make baskets. They get open shots, open drives, the ball under the bucket, but they can't quite get it in the hoop. They went 24-56 from the field, and it easily could have been 34-56, just counting the open looks. This is their biggest obstacle to greatness, and has been all year.
Next game is tomorrow at 7 PM EST, against California Golden Bears. This will be a great test of SU's conditioning and road abilities this early in the season.
Cal provides a tough rematch from last year's Final Four run. They are without last year's leading scorer Alan Crabbe, but if Justin Cobb heats up, they're right back in it. I think Minnesota is going to be on of the best teams in this tournament.
Keep an eye on Minnesota vs Arkansas. 40 minutes of pure press, high intensity basketball. Should be fun to watch.
Let's! Go! S! U!